The Orioles suffered a big blow this weekend when they lost starting shortstop Freddy Galvis to a Grade 1 right quad strain, which will sideline Galvis for 1-2 months. Galvis was one of the steadier performers on an Orioles team that has struggled to produce consistently offensively -- a veteran leader in their inexperienced clubhouse and one of their best potential trade chips come late July.
How do they replace him? Let’s dig into the biggest issue currently facing the big league club.
What are they losing?
Signed to a one-year, $1.5 million-plus incentives deal this winter, Galvis arrived in Baltimore with the reputation as a durable glove-first shortstop not unlike José Iglesias, who he replaced at the position. Galvis largely fit that bill, hitting .249 with nine homers and .720 OPS (98 OPS+) while playing in 72 of 77 games before his injury, with an on-base and slugging percentage near career-best clips. Galvis was experiencing a bit of a down season defensively at age 31, posting a -2 Outs Above Average, per Statcast, but drawing rave reviews for his clubhouse leadership.
A 10-year veteran, Galvis’ track record is long enough for those defensive metrics not to dent his trade value much. Before his injury, he looked the most likely Oriole to be traded come the July 30 Deadline, given the gravity of the decisions it would take to part with John Means or Trey Mancini, Galvis’ expiring contract and the obvious ways he could impact a contending team. The Orioles in recent years flipped veteran infielders Iglesias and Jonathan Villar for prospects; that looks unlikely now with Galvis sidelined. Galvis would earn an additional $250,000 if he’s traded.
Who are the short-term replacements?
The Orioles recalled Ramon Urías and recently-acquired infielder Domingo Leyba from Triple-A Norfolk on Sunday to plug the hole, with the rookie Urías getting the first two starts at short. It looks like those two and Pat Valaika will form a rotation of sorts, much like Valaika and Andrew Velazquez did last season while Iglesias battled injuries. All three are more utility-types more suited for second base, but the Orioles don’t have another natural shortstop on the roster.
What about Jahmai Jones?
A certain sector of the fanbase seems to be clamoring for Jones, whom the Orioles acquired from the Angels for Alex Cobb this February. The club’s No. 16 prospect, Jones is on a torrid stretch at Triple-A Norfolk right now, hitting .310 with two homers, 12 walks and four stolen bases in 16 games since returning from an oblique strain.
There is one tiny problem, though: Jones isn’t a shortstop. Yes, the Orioles have been playing without a permanent solution at second base all year, but Galvis’ injury doesn’t really do anything to change that. And it’s not like Jones is a converted shortstop. He’s a converted outfielder with no professional experience on the left side of the infield. The Orioles are going to focus on Jones' development, not promote him to play out of position in a knee-jerk reaction.
Who else is on the farm?
Thin on the position just a few years ago, the Orioles’ system is now flush with shortstops. Seven of their Top 30 prospects, per MLB Pipeline, are primarily shortstops, headlined by No. 5 prospect Gunnar Henderson and No. 6 prospect Jordan Westburg. But none are at Triple-A, and the most advanced, No. 29 prospect Joey Ortiz, only recently arrived at Double-A Bowie (he’s also on the injured list, to boot). Richie Martin remains on the 60-day injured list, while previously-ranked prospect Mason McCoy is struggling at Norfolk, hitting .221 with .299 OBP in 40 games. McCoy is not on the 40-man roster.
The bottom line
The Orioles are set up well at shortstop long term, but their short-term solutions are slim. They also appear unlikely to search outside the organization for a replacement until at least this winter, meaning it’ll be up to manager Brandon Hyde to oversee a patchwork operation in Galvis’ absence. Expect Hyde to ride the hot hand and Leyba to get some additional reps against right-handed pitching, given his ability to switch-hit.